Eating healthy and following a diet - no matter what kind - requires a decent amount of willpower and discipline, especially as a beginner.
When times get tough and the cravings kick in, eating junk food is almost inevitable.
After all, it’s virtually impossible to eat healthy 100% of the time.
Most diets - including keto - allow you to have a couple cheat meals here and there as it’s been shown to help you stick to your goals in the long term.
In this Keto Beginners Series, you’ll find out whether cheat meals are necessary on keto (and the effect it has on your body).
The Downsides to Cheat Meals on Keto
Having cheat meals every once in a while won’t set you back too much in the long-term, as long as they aren’t a regular occurrence.
On the ketogenic diet, the more you cheat at the beginning, the harder it will become to turn this way of eating into a sustainable lifestyle.
Here are the disadvantages to having cheat meals on keto:
Hinders Your Fat Adaptation
Your body has to make specific changes in the body to ensure effective fat-burning on the ketogenic diet. It can only run on one fuel source at a time:
The more you eat carbohydrates, the less you efficient your body becomes in using fats as a primary source of energy.
This means more frequent cheat meals make it more likely to lessen the health benefits that come with being in a state of ketosis.
Your taste buds get used to certain foods the more they’re exposed to it. That’s part of the reason why following the ketogenic diet gets easier over time.
The more you eat real food sources, the more your taste buds get used to eating healthy foods…
Conversely, eating unhealthy, processed junk food has a similar effect. When you eat junk food, it can interrupt all the work you’ve done to get used to enjoying real food sources.
That’s why if you’re a beginner, cheat meals should be avoided at all costs until you’re fully fat adapted.
Increases Keto Flu Symptoms
Symptoms of the keto flu like headaches, brain fog, and low energy are likely to exacerbate when you teeter between eating lots of carbohydrates and back to the ketogenic diet.
Cheat meals can cause you to fall into a vicious cycle of going back and forth between eating keto and junk food. This constant teeter can worsen your keto flu symptoms.
Knocks You Out of Ketosis
The only way to get stay in a state of ketosis is by keeping glucose stores empty. When you cheat with carbohydrates, you’re temporarily refilling your body’s glycogen storages.
Getting kicked out of ketosis constantly will delay your health and fitness goals on the low carb, high fat diet.
The Right Way to Have Cheat Meals on Keto
There are a few ways to approach cheat meals when you’re eating a low carb, high fat diet.
Here are three effective methods that will allow you to enjoy a cheat meal here and there without having to sacrifice your ketosis efforts.
#1: Eat Keto Foods During Your Cheat Meals
Instead of binging on processed carbs like donuts and bread to satisfy your cravings, consider eating ketogenic-friendly foods instead.
For example, if you have sugar craving, make yourself a quick keto fat bomb instead of reaching for cookies.
#2: Incorporate a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) allows you to eat carbohydrates one to two days out of the week to help with athletic performance.
If you’re experienced with keto and live an active lifestyle, adopting a CKD is a great way to backload your cravings for one day out of the week while still experiencing the benefits of a fat-burning state.
#3: Exercise After Cheating
Your body’s insulin sensitivity is dramatically improved after working out. This means you can tolerate and deplete glucose (from carbs) more effectively by exercising.
If you accidentally had a large cheat meal, exercising a couple hours later will help you burn off those carbohydrate calories so you can start burning ketones for energy again.
Cheat Meals Should Be a Rare Occurrence
As you’ve seen in this article, regular cheat meals can be detrimental to your ketogenic goals.
If you’re a beginner, it’s best to avoid cheat meals until your body is fully keto-adapted. We suggest waiting at least a month of strict ketogenic eat before having a cheat meal.
Following the steps above will help you enjoy the occasional cheat meal without ruining your health and weight loss goals.
Carb Manager is the easiest and most powerful way to count carbs and live the low carb life. In this blog, we've invited experts on LCHF to contribute their views on everything low carb.